Be the Media: Social Media Branding

Your company too small for a media presence? Learn how to use social media branding and become the magazine.


Your company too small for a media presence? Learn how to use social media branding and become the magazine.

I was in a boardroom this week, talking to a client about creating online content to support their brand promise, when this thought hit me. If individuals are now able to use online tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to tell stories, and more and more (hundreds of millions more) people are online looking around for stories to read, then each one of us is really a media outlet, and can control our own personal brand. In the recent past, only rich companies could have a media presence. But now if you, as an individual, are telling stories online…and you want people to read them…you are a magazine. We have become the media.

(Ground rules for the rest of this article: this is cynical and manipulative stuff. Disregard what you will. Absorb what works for you. And then lets not talk about this anymore, OK? The following is based on the assumption that you want people to pay attention to your personal brand. My basic hypothesis is that many of the same rules that apply to a corporate brand apply to an individual. If that’s all too contrived and scary for you, then stop right here!)

What does your brand look like?

If you buy into the notion that you are a magazine (or a TV newscast or a newspaper) consider the question of your audience. What kind of magazine are you? Are you all about business? Are you successful? Are you stunningly louche, or non-conformist, or artistic? Are you a cheery and helpful how-to magazine? Are you an insiders guide to a niche interest area? Or are you all things to all people, a general interest publication? It helps to pick a category, know you are picking a category, and use the stereotypes and icons that people associate with that category to your own advantage. People want to put you into a niche, and the easier you make it for them, the better. In this “we are the media” world, the category membership you project online (and in person) is a bigger opportunity to direct attention to your messages than it has been before.

For example, we’ve all seen the silver-haired boomer in a blue pinstripe suite with perfectly polished brogues and a conservative rep tie. We know this guy “means business” and is likely in a formalist industry that values tradition. We know what to expect. If this fellow started a blog about baking pies, or about skateboarding, it would be unexpected, and a lot harder to assimilate into our understanding than if he has a Twitter Feed that spoke about stock market tips and tricks. Similarly, there’s all the other icons that you can use to help people understand your area of expertise. Are you Martha Stewart? A goth punk rebel? A blue-collar everyman? An avid outdoorsman? Make it easy for us to put you into our mental filing cabinet, and we’ll follow your magazine (if we are interested) more easily.

Planning your brand

Much like the editorial staff of a magazine sits down months in advance and plans out the big themes that the upcoming issues of a magazine will cover, you should too. Your cover story for your online personal brand should reinforce to your readers that you are a leader in your particular area of expertise, and that you want to share what you know. The aforementioned business guru might be all about taxes this month, with stories to tell about income tax strategies, corporate tax planning, and the baffling approach the BC government has taken towards creating and implementing this new all-encompassing HST tax. Whatever your story is for this month, stay true. Know what you are talking about, and clump any editorial content under your theme to make it easy for people to follow along and get up a head of steam around your content before you change tracks and start in on something new. Stay focused. The occasional drift into a questionably aligned subject area is fine, as long as you snap back to attention – you return to your brand values — smartly thereafter.

Where does your advertising revenue come from, the cash required to support your magazine? For many, it will be a full time job, or perhaps a series of contract jobs in a particular field. So it would make sense to choose a magazine category, and periodic themes, that support your work as an expert in your chosen field. If you are a copyright lawyer by day, maybe your online brand should be about the music industry, or about inventors. (Remember, I did disclaimer the cynicism inherent in this topic. If you are a lawyer and you want a Facebook page devoted to your love of bug collecting, go for it!) If over time you build a loyal online fan base for being especially adroit in some particular field of knowledge, and that field of knowledge relates to your career goals, that can only be a good thing.

Keeping the quality in self-promotion

And finally, a word about promotion. Magazines need readers, or they are left writing for themselves. Quality is key. Don’t distribute crap. Participate with your community (letters to the editor need answering). Play nicely with others (support your brethren in the business when you can). And most of all, be consistent. If every time you picked up a favourite magazine from the newsstand it was something entirely other than what you expected, you’d be less inclined to search it out. Desire is only created when a consumer knows they need something. Be easy to need.